Life On A B-I7

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Family History - Wednesday, April 27, 2024

A Brief Bio

I was born on January 19, 1954. I’m 70 years old at the time of this writing. I am now retired and have been for the last five years.

My early childhood was spent overcoming Asthma. At the age of 10, I came home from school and told my parents I wanted to sign up to play Little League baseball. My mother was skeptical but I managed to prevail. I spent three years playing Little League and it was a wonderful time. I went on to play baseball in Junior High and High School. At age 11, I learned to ski. I rode the Saturday ski bus with my two older sisters. They did their best to ignore me but I didn’t mind, I was too young to care much about being included in their circle. Skiing captured my imagination and I have been an enthusiastic skier ever since.

I went to Lake Washington High School in Kirkland Washington. I played Baseball and Football there and lettered in both sports. I graduated in 1972 with passing grades, just north of a 3.5 GPA. I had a girlfriend in High School who was a year younger than I was. I planned to marry her after we both graduated from college, however, that turned out (as you might expect) not to be the case. In the fall of ’72, I enrolled at Washington State University. My first semester was a success academically, I received straight A’s (the last time that would happen until my final year in college). I missed my girlfriend, so I left Washington State University and enrolled at Shoreline Community College to finish the academic year. The highlight of that summer was a paper I wrote for a Political Science class about the Nixon Watergate affair. I concluded that Richard Nixon was aware of the plan and had participated in the cover-up. A year later my conclusion turned out to be correct. The lowlight of that summer was when my girlfriend told me she no longer wanted to date me. It was a blow that took some time to overcome.

In the fall of ’73, I enrolled at Seattle University. I remember my father encouraging me to go there. I think he might have been a bit worried that if I didn’t get into a real school soon, I might never complete my college degree. I enrolled and ended up graduating in the spring of 1976 with a major in Political Science and a minor in History. Like high school, I graduated with a GPA just north of 3.5. A solid, average accomplishment. Not graduate school material. I spent my last year at Seattle University dating the daughter of the Political Science Department Chairman. Once again I thought I was headed toward marriage once I graduated. I even converted to Catholicism to pave the way for our future. She was Irish Catholic, She went on to graduate school in California and we drifted apart even though I continued to hold strong feelings for her for quite some time. After graduation, it was time to get a job, but that was the last thing I wanted to do. I suppose that was partially due to my disappointment over losing my second love, but also it was 1976, a lot was going on and work seemed like a boring choice. So I opted to ride my bicycle from Seattle to San Diego. I couldn’t think of a better way to defer a career decision. It turned out to be a terrific experience. I bought some packcloth and sewed my own panniers and rain gear and set out on the journey. The year 1976 was of course our country’s bi-centennial, it was also the Bike-Centennial. Lots of people were riding their bicycles across the country to celebrate the nation’s anniversary. They all hit the Pacific Coast in Florence Beach, Oregon. Once riders got to Florence Beach, many turned south. I rode with someone every day to San Diego, never the same person two days in a row.

I arrived in Bandon Oregon on a Saturday. I pulled into the State Park and a young, attractive Ranger Intern was handling camping registrations. After securing a campsite I asked the nice young lady where the Catholic Church was. At that time I was still attending church regularly, largely in the hope there was a chance my S.U. sweetheart would decide to rekindle our relationship after she finished her graduate school studies.

The next morning I showed up for Mass. After Mass, I met the Ranger Intern and her entire family on the front steps of the church. After brief introductions and small talk, her father offered me a job on his fishing boat. (I don’t know if his daughter encouraged him to do that or if he just needed able-bodied labor, I like to think it was the former.) I had to reluctantly decline, my goal was San Diego and I was not to be deterred (I did entertain the idea of returning to Bandon after my ride, but that never occurred).

The camping highlight of the trip was the night I spent in the Redwood Forest. The majesty of the Redwoods was overwhelming. The French toast I cooked the next morning was pretty good too. I shared it with my fellow campers.

The trip finally ended and I returned to Seattle. It was now time to find work. Reluctantly I began my search. I had no real clue what I was going to do. Again my father stepped in with encouragement. He suggested I apply for a “Management Training” job at the Bon Marche in Seattle. “The Bon” as we called it was a retail department store, something of a Seattle landmark at that time. That was not enough to change the fact that it was a horrible job. After three months I was transferred to the Longview store where I was given the position of “Department Sales Manager” (the title did have the word “Manager” in it) for women’s ready-to-wear and lingerie. (Not men’s wear, I did find that slightly disturbing.) I stayed out of the lingerie department as much as I possibly could. I do remember one day when the lead associate, Ardel Moore, was having trouble fitting a difficult customer. She asked the customer if she would like to have the “Department Sales Manager” assist her. The customer took her up on the suggestion and Ardel immediately yelled from the fitting room, “Brad!”

Shortly after that dramatic incident (for the customer) A regional sales manager came through the store and toured my department. He asked me lots of merchandising questions. I thought I was being clever and I made up answers right and left. At the end of the tour, the manager looked at me and said, “Mr. Adkins, that was one of the most interesting tours I have ever had.” I was elated. Then he looked at me and said: “I want you to remember one thing: I have you by the balls and if you EVER bullshit me again I won’t hesitate to squeeze…”

That was pretty much the end of my retail merchandising career. I resigned a week later. Stuck in the town of Longview, I started looking for work. That’s when I caught a break. I did not realize it at the time, but it was a life-changing opportunity. I applied for a job at the Weyerhaeuser Company as a research technician. History and Political Science would not necessarily qualify me for a position like that, but I applied anyway and was hired. They only needed someone with a head on his shoulders and not much more, so it turns out I was well qualified. However, I had doubts about my ability to pull it off. A couple of days before I was scheduled to report to work, I called and told them I couldn’t accept the position because I was under-qualified. The fellow I was talking to, Bruce Kuneau, told me to meet him immediately at the restaurant outside the gate, he wanted to buy me a cup of coffee and chat before he would accept my refusal. I met him and he told me in no uncertain terms that he wanted me on his team. I agreed to give the job a go. It turns out I was not under-qualified. I loved the work. It was my first real-world introduction to the scientific method in action, and it turns out I was well suited for that sort of work. I learned data collection with electronic instruments of various types. Data entry and analysis, and the best part, when the Tektronix 4051 desktop computer came out (one of the first of its kind) I discovered that computers were my thing.

I worked for Weyerhaeuser for the better part of three years, gaining experience in the “tech world.” I could have stayed in the job longer, but living in Longview was a drag, recreationally and socially, so I decided to look for work in Seattle. I took a job with the Boeing Company as a Computer System Requirements Analyst. I remember well the interview. The hiring manager asked me, “Do you know why I’m hiring you?” I had to admit I had no idea. He said, “Because your Dad is a successful manager in the company, so that means you’re probably going to work out okay.” Once again my Dad played an instrumental role in a life choice, only this time he had no idea he was doing so. The job was junior-level stuff, but I was exposed to different computer hardware and within a fairly short period, I learned to program computers. I had found my niche. I enjoyed making the machine jump through hoops. That was the start of my 37-year career with The Boeing Company.

I eventually ended up being the lead developer on Boeing’s HR Data Mart. That database held a large portion of Boeing’s personnel and payroll information. The information stored in the Data Mart was extracted nightly from the back-end Data Warehouse and provided the interface to employees’ online access to their personnel and payroll information. It was a great job because I got to program in several different languages. I was also responsible for the design and construction of the software that was used to extract data nightly from the back-end repository. I was a bit of a rebel. At that time Microsoft Windows was all the rage for corporate desktop software, but I refused to use it. Instead, I did all of my work using a Linux desktop computer. In many ways, it made the job harder to use Linux because so much more infrastructure had to be hand-cobbled. I loved that. I also enjoyed the fact that people looking over my shoulder had no idea what they were looking at. It was very self-satisfying.

As soon as I reached age 65 I retired. I loved my work, but there were other things I wanted to do: ski, cycle, hike, and camp, to name just a few. I’ve been retired now for five years and I’m enjoying life to the fullest. I don’t do technical shit anymore, in fact, I’ve forgotten almost everything I know about Linux and databases, but I do love to write and I have put my “tech” skills to use publishing a website of my writing — just for fun.

I’ve ridden my bicycle across the country twice since I retired, I hope I have one more crossing left in me. I’m skiing better now than I ever have. I have two beautiful daughters from my first marriage and one beautiful daughter from my second marriage. I have an extraordinary partner who is an amazing woman. We are deeply committed. It is my fond desire to spend the rest of my life with her. I’m very fortunate, and very grateful.

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